Last night we received a call from a family member making us aware that her mother, the sweet wife of my husband’s brother, now in her mid 80’s, would probably not live through the night. As we drove away from the house for our regular Friday night date we said the regular things one says when a family member of any age passes away 12 days before Christmas, “What a hard time of year to lose someone–to have a funeral.” And so it is. It’s a time that is supposed to be filled with light and joy, not sorrow. It’s a busy time, filled with distractions. It can be cold and dreary. And most of all December is the month of the year most filled to the brim with family memories, memories that can pierce the tender feelings of those left to mourn.
My father died in the summertime, leaving a family of seven children to provide Christmas for, only months after his passing. Now, decades later, I wish I could peek in and see how my precious mother helped us take the journey through that first season without our father.
Among us this Christmas are those who experience this kind of loss. All of us can think of someone we are missing, no matter how many Christmases have come and gone since they took leave of our family fireside. And so it is, with all of us in mind, that I share an experience related to me by a friend.
With a heart full of need to connect with her son, she drove to the cemetery on a cold, black Christmas Eve. She imagined herself slushing through the snow, standing in dark solitude and whispering words of love and sweet memories of Christmases past over the grave of her young adult son whose body had so recently been placed in the ground. But as she turned up the hill and onto one of the narrow roads that brings folks face to face with the reality of their almost unthinkable loss, to her utter amazement, she found the cemetery filled with light and joy and celebration. What on earth! It was Christmas Eve, and people who might have been drinking eggnog by the fire, finishing the Christmas puzzle, hanging Christmas stockings, and assembling one of those things that “may” require at least a screwdriver were here, of all places. People were pouring into the city cemetery, and with the people came light. She stood in amazement watching as family after family shoveled snow off headstones and placed luminaries and candles about graves. This most unlikely place was electric with love and hope! Not quite believing what she was seeing and wanting to share whatever it was she was feeling, she got back into her car. Reminiscent of those shepherds of long ago she drove to the homes of loved ones and invited them to come experience with her the light being brought to this dark place because of Christmas–because of Christ!
Today I want to say, why not? Why wouldn’t the city cemetery be a place of great celebration on the Eve of His birth. After all, His life on the earth was dedicated to our lives after death. Every minute He dwelled among us here was consecrated to our Eternal life there–to families never to be separated again by sin or by death.
He Is The Light That Shines In Our Greatest Darkness
Jesus Christ is the light in the darkness, in every kind of darkness we can experience here on earth. But, His greatest light shines over our greatest darkness, the darkness of death. For those who have lost a loved one at Christmas or at any other time of year, may His glorious light shine on the reality that there is a path, a path He has made with His very blood that will lead us back to all those we have loved and lost awhile.
So, if you find yourself being drawn to a cemetery this season, know that there might not be a more meaningful place to celebrate Christmas. I know, and I believe we can all come to know that because of Jesus the cemetery will never be anyone’s final resting place.